Community spirit

Deborah Homshaw, managing director of CH&CO Independent, reflects on the power of partnerships, particularly in times of adversity

At the time of writing this, we are into the third week of this strange new world created by the Covid-19 outbreak. Schools across the nation are closed to all pupils except for the children of key workers and vulnerable children, and the nation is adapting to life in lockdown.

It’s been said a million times, these are unprecedented circumstances. They most certainly are, with schools and caterers being called upon to do what they do best – be agile and adapt quickly to the developing, very different situation, and above all, work together to get through the many challenges we are currently facing.

There will be many lessons – good and bad – to take from this when it’s all over. But there is one thing that has struck me time and time again from the day the situation we all feared became a reality.

And that’s the power of pulling together – be that through teamwork or partnerships. It will never cease to amaze me how people from various backgrounds, in the face of adversity, step up and go above and beyond to help others when the need arises.

We’ve seen this across the nation as communities come together and, closer to home, we’ve seen this across our school communities – from the teachers, pupils and parents to the catering teams, suppliers and everyone that supports them in some way, shape or form.

The Covid-19 crisis is proof that by working together with the same goal, different organisations and sectors can do great things

When CH&CO launched the Education Board in February, we had a vision to create and leverage partnerships between educators, foodservice and the healthcare sectors. These like-minded connections will lead the conversation and take action around the prominent issues of physical and mental health and sustainability through food and nutrition.

With a strong, united platform they will share knowledge, best practice and facilities relating to food, nutrition and sustainability, and create positive food messaging with young people throughout all stages of education and into society.

We absolutely believe that such partnerships have the power to make a real difference. Little did we know that the foundation of our vision would be put to the test so quickly and so dramatically. The Covid-19 crisis is proof that by working together with the same goal, different organisations and sectors can do great things.

In this case, the goal is ensuring the children of key workers and the school teams are fed delicious, nutritious meals, whilst being kept as safe as possible alongside our valuable teams.

This has truly been a collaborative effort. We’ve seen chefs from other parts of the CH&CO business, such as workplaces and destinations, join our teams in the school kitchens to support their colleagues.

Our suppliers have stepped up, regardless of their own challenges and pressures, to ensure we have the ingredients to work with. And, our teams have simply put their personal anxieties and needs to one side to make sure every child is fed.

It really has been uplifting and humbling.

When all this is over (and it will be), we look forward to returning to ‘normal’. I believe that we will, however, enjoy a ‘new normal’ where the spirit of sharing and supporting in partnership will have a greater importance.

Through the Education Board by CH&CO we will harness the power of these partnerships to fulfil our original goal of creating good relationships with food in young people through education that will have a positive impact on their wellbeing and those of future generations, and on the planet.

The Covid-19 experience has been an equaliser across society. We’ve seen first-hand, when it comes to the crunch the two priorities for everyone, regardless of background, are health and food.

The two are intrinsically linked. Isn’t that something to think about and learn from?


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